Why Do Old Houses Have Two Front Doors?

Ever walked past one of those older, historical looking homes and thought to yourself; hey, it has two front doors.

Why Do Old Houses Have Two Front Doors?

Why is that? Is it because one just isn’t enough? Is it for decoration? Is the second one a secret doorway for aliens?

Who knows?

Well… we do. And you’re about to find out too!

Why Do Old Houses Have Two Front Doors?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as cool as aliens, but it’s still pretty interesting. Some older homes, that were built in and around the 1800s, have two front doors.

They’re usually spaced a little way apart from each other. The reason these homes had two front doors was that they were for two different purposes.

The main front door, the one used by visitors and people who lived in the house, was considered the formal front door.

It was used to access the formal parts of the house, like the parlor, where you would entertain guests. 

The second front door would be used for functional things. Think of it as a kind of servant’s entrance, for people who could afford staff. 

But not everyone could afford staff. And some of the old homes with two front doors aren’t stately enough to have been home to people with servants.

So why on earth would those houses have needed two front doors?

Well, the answer to that is just as simple as the first one. Houses with two front doors, that aren’t too big and just seem like your average house, are called dogtrot houses.

Dogtrot Houses

Dogtrot houses are named after their shape. A dogtrot house looks like a triangle with its point facing outward.

This makes sense when you think about how the house was designed.

If you look at an old home, you’ll see that there’s often a porch on the side of the house. That’s because back then, most houses didn’t have indoor plumbing.

So if you wanted to use your bathroom or wash up before dinner, you’d go outside, so a porch was necessary for easy access.

Generally, the kitchen was right next to the dining room. If you needed something from the kitchen, you’d walk through the dining room and into the kitchen. 

To make this easier, some houses had a hallway between the kitchen and the dining room.

This made it easy to pass between them without having to step inside either room. 

So what does all this mean? Well, it means that the kitchen was closer to the dining room than the living room.

Because of this, the kitchen became the heart of the house. Many homes still follow this design today. 

So Why Did Dogtrot Houses Need Two Front Doors?

Well, firstly, it was so that people could enter the house easily. But secondly, it was also so that people could choose which part of the house they wanted to visit. 

For example, if someone came to call, they might want to come straight into the dining room. Or maybe they wanted to go straight into the kitchen.

Either way, both rooms were accessible from the front door.

Why Do Old Houses Have Two Front Doors?

Or if someone came to visit, they might want to stay in the parlor. Again, both rooms were accessible via the front door.

In the case of dogtrot houses, we can assume that the owners of the house would want to keep their guests entertained. So they’d want to invite them into the parlor room. 

This meant that the parlor room would be the primary focus of the house. And since it was the parlor room, it was the room that was usually decorated with the best furniture. 

That’s why dogtrot houses have two front doors. They’re a little bit unusual, but they work really well!

Where Can You Find Dogtrot Houses?

You can find dogtrot houses all over America. Most of them can be found in rural areas. Some of the oldest ones, though, can be found in cities. 

The reason for this is that these places were once very wealthy. And they once had lots of land around them. Which meant that they could build large houses. 

They weren’t necessarily rich by modern standards. But they were rich enough to buy huge pieces of property.

But remember, property didn’t cost as much back then as it does now. Back then all it cost was a few bills, whereas nowadays, it costs an arm and a leg.

People able to afford it used to build houses that reflected their wealth.

So where do you find dogtrot houses? Well, you can find them in every state. But they’re particularly common in the South East of the US.

The dogtrot house design was thought to have originated in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky.

This is because the design of the dogtrot house is big and airy. It encourages cool airflow and shade.

And if you know anything about the south then you know those are two things that it’s in serious need of, hence the invention of the dogtrot houses.

Dogtrot houses are so good at staying cool, that they’re also known as “breezeway homes”. 

Final Thoughts

So two front doors don’t mean one was for humans and one was for aliens. The aliens can use the same front door as everyone else; they’re not special.

Older homes had two front doors for different reasons. 

The first was for the wealthy. One door was for the servants and functional purposes, whereas the other was for the people of the house and their wealthy guests.

Not always though. In dogtrot houses, the two front door design was more for practical reasons than for bourgeois ones. 

Nowadays though, the two front doors are used by anyone.

If you want to start up old traditions again and you, unfortunately, don’t have a dogtrot house, then you can always utilize the window for anyone you deem unworthy to enter the front door.

Though the mailman might have objections. 

Erica Bopst